April 1, 2010

LHC Research Continues Despite Minor Glitches

A day after achieving beam collisions at 7 terra electron volts (TeV), physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have begun efforts to increase the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) output from 50 collisions per second to 300.

"We are moving to ever new frontiers of science," spokesman James Gillies told Robert Evans of Reuters on Wednesday, as he and the team of scientists operating the particle accelerator worked to overcome a series of minor glitches. "Nothing of what happened today is show-stopping. We are pushing on. Small problems are normal in a project of this size."

During their work at the Geneva-based LHC facility, CERN researchers are attempting to simulate conditions believed to have existed in the early days of the universe. They hope to generate a small scale, artificial "Big Bang" that could provide insight as to how the universe was formed.

Gillies told Reuters that the plan was to increase the number of particle bunches from two at a time, their current level, to as many as 2,700 at a time within an 18-to-24 month time span. Provided there are no major technical issues, the LHC will continue to run daily through the end of 2011, then will go on a one-year hiatus to prepare for more powerful collisions starting in 2013.

Among their primary goals are to prove the existence of the so-called "God Particle," Higgs boson, as well as dark energy and dark matter. It is believed that these discoveries could have a profound impact on modern theoretical physics.

Early Tuesday morning, CERN officials successfully reached the 7 TeV milestone, shattering the existing record of 3.5 TeV, which had also been set by the LHC earlier in the month.

At the time, CERN spokeswoman Paola Catapano called it "physics in the making" and "the beginning of a new era." According to AFP reports, "Cheers erupted in separate control rooms around the 27-kilometre (16.8-mile) long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) as the detectors recorded the collisions of beams of sub-atomic particles at close to the speed of light."

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